In the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, a College of Business faculty member from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh recommends organizations adopt more effective training and comprehensive policies and procedures to curb sexual harassment in the workplace.
Shannon Rawski’s dissertation research into the effectiveness of sexual harassment training has garnered attention from The New York Times, the Washington Post, Wisconsin Public Radio and other media outlets.
Rawski, an assistant professor of management, found that about 25 percent of employees who were required to attend an in-person, lecture-style sexual harassment training experienced an “identity threat” reaction to the training.
“An identity threat is a perception that your sense of self will be harmed in the future,” she said. “In the case of my study, employees felt that their identities would be devalued by others after sexual harassment training and that the relationships they had built based on those identities would suffer after sexual harassment training.”
The identity threat reactions led to decreased knowledge gain during the training session and increased backlash attitudes against the session.
Instead of traditional training that focusses on victims and harassers, Rawski advocates that organizations put into place more effective programs.
“Bystander training offers a promising avenue to reduce the identity threat I observed in my initial study, because it offers a positive role for the trainees to play,” she said. “I am beginning to see a trend in my consulting work where organizations are looking to go above and beyond basic compliance training and provide training that produces real results.”
Rawski is teaming with College of Business colleague Sarah DeArmond, an associate professor of human resource management, to test whether bystander-oriented sexual harassment training is more effective than harasser/victim-oriented training.
“I’m also working on identifying best practices for sexual harassment training in already hostile working environments and on creating a training program that is computer adaptive so that it can more effectively meet the training needs of individual employees,” Rawski said.
Meanwhile, training is just one small piece of the steps that need to be taken to reduce sexual harassment in the work place, she added.
“Organizations need a comprehensive and synergistic system of policies and procedures to allow employees to report problematic behaviors and to manager small conflicts before they become legally actionable cases of sexual harassment,” Rawski explained.
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